After my series of posts on the role of women in the church, a reader reached out and asked if they could share an anonymous post they wrote for my site. As a man, I have a limited perspective on what women have gone through because of the culture created by the church, so I was encouraged when she sent this post in. Before you read it, I’d like for you to reread this one quotation from my post from a few days ago. It will paint a good picture of the type of culture to which she is responding:
“The woman is the priestess of the nursery” and that, “She is the counterpart of her husband; she gives life to children of the sex of her husband; and of her own sex she bears daughters and guides them in their development into cheerful women who will, in turn, supply the social, spiritual, and physical needs of other women’s strong sons.”Rex Turner, Biblical Theology Revised Edition (Amridge University Press, 2010), p.160-163
I was scrolling Facebook the other day (a dangerous pastime, I know) and came across a post that gave me mixed feelings. It was something along the lines of how parents are more influential ministers than whoever is in the pulpit. It is our responsibility to be good examples to our children and to teach them to love and follow God.
There was just a little bit of the wording that made me feel funny.
It said the mom’s arms are full of bringing her children to church, and the dad studies scriptures to lead.
I’m hoping this is not how the poster intended it to sound, but my takeaway – as a mom – was that dad is the Bible scholar and mom is the entourage.
Hear me out.
As a woman, I feel like I’m only allowed to study if and after everything else is taken care of. Doesn’t that sound little backward? Oh sure, we are told, and rightly so, we should make Bible study a priority. We should spend time in God’s word daily and spend “quiet time” with Him. But the message that seems to come across feels a little more like Cinderella’s stipulations to get to go to the ball. “You can study your Bible IF you get up early before the kids are up and fit it in before your day starts. Unless, you know one of them gets up early. Then it’s all over. Or, you can stay up late after they go to bed. I know you are sleep deprived and tired, but hey, you need to read that chapter before your eyes close. You can’t do it during the day. You are first and foremost a wife and mother and that means making sure: your house is clean; the children are fed and clothed; they are involved in all the socially appropriate activities; you’re spending time on their education so they can maintain that high GPA and get a scholarship – if they aren’t getting one for extra-curriculars; your husband is happy and satisfied. You may also have a career, but being wife and mother comes first. If your career takes up too many hours,
you are required to feel guilt for not spending enough time on everything else. After all, the children are only little once. Soak up every minute! Except for those 15 you should be spending reading those couple of chapters in your Bible. Oh! And you should only study about the proper way a Christian woman should behave, how to be a submissive wife and godly mother and how to teach other women to do the same. You can also learn the life of Jesus stories and a handful of others from the Old Testament that are fun to teach the kids. When they get older, the men can take over and teach the boys all the Bible they need to know to be good ministers while you keep teaching the girls about how to be submissive wives and mothers, too. There’s really no need for you to worry about the rest of it.”
How ridiculous does that sound?!?
While none of that has ever been said directly to me, and I’m sure at least most of it would be greatly denied, at times I have been made to feel like I don’t need to have deep study about the Bible. Despite my longing to keep growing closer to God and learn more and more about Him and dig into the different aspects of His character, the history of His people, and how He would have us live, traditionally women just haven’t had the opportunities.
I have a couple of male friends that I am around often. I love these guys. As we are all part of the same church family we spend a lot of time together, and a lot of that time is talking about spiritual matters. Both of these men were educated in ministry. I am an intelligent woman. But I often feel inferior when we have discussions. Not because I don’t think I’m as smart as them. Because I feel undereducated. They start going deep and I get lost. And let me tell you – the places they go there ain’t no road maps. I just have to hang on and wait till we get wherever they are going. I just haven’t had the opportunities they have. And at this point in my life, it feels like every time I buy a book or start a study to try to catch up and read that road map, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I
even considered taking some online classes to help me dig deeper. But you know what I’ve been taught?
Go to Bible college? Of course! That’s where you get your MRS….
Take classes on ministry? Why would you want to do that? You’ll never be able to use it. Women’s ministry consists of teaching other women and children. You don’t have to scratch too deep to be able to to that.
Write a blog or ladies’ class material? Sure! As long as it’s talking about how to fit into the traditional mold we’ve set for women. Good topics are biblical womanhood, biblical beauty and modesty, how to serve others and show hospitality and be peacemakers.
Despite our intelligence, our tenacity, our gifts and our strengths, our culture has held women to be not only the “weaker vessel” but the inferior vessel. I want my daughters to know that they can learn more about God. That they have the resources and the ability to dig deeper. That they can ask hard questions. That they can answer hard questions. That their voices are valuable and heard. I’m working on not having a spirit of fear, and being bold in my convictions. When you come from a culture that teaches you a woman has to be silent and submissive, that’s a hard thing to do. Especially when you know it will cause problems with your loved ones. But just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I’m less. It doesn’t mean my words, my thoughts, my gifts are any less valuable. Being a wife and a mom shouldn’t make me feel any less…me. It’s taken me a long time to learn that. I can be selfless, but still be myself. I’m not there yet. I’ve been taught for so long to essentially “sit down, shut up, and think what you’re told” that I’m having trouble finding my voice. I’ve been taught if you have doubts, you are wrong and you need to study harder to see it the “right way”, so now that I see it another way, it’s hard to admit out loud.
I hope one day I will be able to study and learn and become more knowledgable and wise, and be able to pass it on to other Christians. I absolutely believe my role as a wife and mother is extremely important, and my top priority after serving God. I just don’t think that’s the only way I can serve God. He created me with a gift that He wants me to share. I hope one day I will be comfortable enough to share it openly. I can be a Bible scholar as well. I’m more than just entourage.